For those of us living along the coast, beach cleanups are one of the most popular community service activities. They are a great way to get involved in protecting the marine environment — something so many coastal cities and towns depend on, whether for tourism, food or simple relaxation. Litter on the beach includes anything from cigarette butts, to food wrappers, to fishing line. Of course, some of the biggest offenders are plastics, such as single-use straws, balloons and bottle caps. One of those most active nonprofit organizations focusing on sustaining marine and coastal ecosystems is the Surfrider Foundation. Local chapters of are actively involved in monthly beach cleanups because most sea pollution starts out on land as litter. Founded in 1984, Surfrider’s mission is to protect and preserve the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. The organization focuses on issues such as water quality, beach access and beach and surf spot preservation. All October long, Surfrider is challenging each of us to reduce our plastic footprint with its “Rise Above Plastics” campaign. There are still too many consumers out there who do not recycle plastics. As we know, plastic does not biodegrade, and once it enters the marine environment it slowly photodegrades, breaking down from the sun’s ultraviolet rays into smaller pieces that marine animals often mistake for food. Rise Above Plastics According to Surfrider, plastic is the most common type of marine litter, comprising up to 90% of floating marine debris. The foundation also says that in 2009 about 3.8 million tons of plastic “bags, sacks and wraps” were generated in the U.S., but only 9.4% of this total was actually recycled. You can join Surfrider Foundation throughout October as chapters around the country host events to work toward a goal to remove 1,000 square feet of plastic and other litter from coastal communities in the U.S. As part of “Rise Above Plastics” month, Surfrider is partnering with Teva on this initiative called “One Foot at a Time.” After removing pieces of plastic trash and debris from our environment, participants of the cleanups are encouraged to use the material to create unique mosaics from downloadable templates through Surfrider’s website. After creating your work of art, be sure to snap a photo and email it to so that Surfrider can share your art with the world. All submissions will be judged and prizes will be awarded to the favorites. But what if you are not located near a chapter? Surfrider says, “No problem!” The great thing about “One Foot at a Time” is that anyone anywhere can participate. All you have to do is grab a bag and a pair of gloves and head out to your favorite spot that you know could use a loving cleanup. Besides the beach cleanups, what else can you do to help? Our suggestion, of course, is to make sure you are not only recycling your plastics, but also educating those around you. Surfrider Foundation provides a “Rise Above Plastics” toolkit that can be downloaded and used at home, work and in schools nationwide. Surfrider even provides 10 ways to “carve out plastics from your life”:
  1. Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
  2. Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at barbecues, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
  3. Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag or box that includes a thermos.
  4. Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or any restaurants that let you use it. This is a great way to cut out plastic lids and plastic or plastic-lined cups.
  5. Go digital! No need for plastic CDs, DVDs and jewel cases when you can buy and store your music and videos online.
  6. Seek out alternatives to the plastic items you rely upon.
  7. Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recyclable plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam, as both are typically much more difficult to recycle.
  8. Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Surfrider chapters often hold monthly (or even more frequent) cleanup events.
  9. Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
  10. Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to Rise Above Plastics.
Follow Surfrider Foundation on Facebook, where the group will be sharing the latest news about the “Rise Above Plastics” campaign. Pictures from the cleanups and the mosaic designs will also be shared. Six winning designs will be chosen (one for each template) and there will also be a grand prize winner from the top six. Winners, to be revealed on Halloween, receive some awesome prizes. The grand prize winner will be announced on Friday, November 1. So, get out there in your community this October (and beyond) and help make a difference!